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Thread: sterilizing wood barrels

  1. #1
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    sterilizing wood barrels

    Thank you for all the replies. I was wondering, what is the best way to sanitize wood barrels? Also, has anyone served beer directlly from the barrel---will wooden barrels hold CO2 pressure?

  2. #2
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    You can only use hot water or steam to sterilise wood. If you use any chemical, it is likely to be absorbed by the wood, and either then leach out into the beer subsequently, or react with the wood, which may produce even more strange flavours and aromas, again leaching out into the beer. Additionally, any chemical reaction with the wood is likely to soften it and weaken it.

    Since wood is porous, and there are numerous joints between the staves, wood barrels will not really hold much CO2 - no more than a very slightly greater than atmospheric pressure. The beer will have the CO2 bite and dispense characteristics of a British "real" ale, which is the only thing you could use it for for dispense.

    You could not apply much more than a CO2 or nitrogen blanket at atmospheric to the cask when using wood for dispense. If your turnover is just a couple of days, and eerything is clean and sterilised OK, then you should be ok with hard and soft spiles as appropriate

    If you wish to mature beer in wood, fine, but if you want a keg or bottle level of CO2 at dispense, it will have to be transferred to metal containers to gas up first.

    Cheers
    dick

  3. #3
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    WOOD BARRELS

    WOOD BARRELS ARE STILL USED IN MANY GERMAN HAUS BRAUERIES" WHERE THE CO2 WILL BE IN A PROPER LAGER RANGE OF 2.4-2.7 VOLUMES. THE PRESSURE WILL LAST LONGER THAN THE BEER IN MOST CASES. SANITIZING USED TO BE DONE WITH FORMALDEHYDE WHICH I UNDERSTAND BREAKS DOWN, BUT TOO HIGH A TEMPERATURE WILL MELT THE PITCH INSIDE THE BARREL. SULPHUR DIOXIDE IS AN OPTION TOO...
    HOPE THIS WAS USEFULL

  4. #4
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    Good point - sounds like you are using pitch lined barrels. Where wooden barrels are used for dispense in the UK (and there are not many brewers who still used them due to hygien and maintenance problems) they are, and as far as I know always have been, unlined. If lined I accept that they should hold this level of CO2. The other problem with high levels of CO2 here is that wooden fittings are used, and are just driven in using a mallet. These tend to blow out if the CO2 gets too high- beer shower anyone ??

    Formaldehyde has fallen out of favour, actually I think it is now banned in Europe due to its carcinogenic properties. It will taint the wood irretrevably, making the beer undrinkable, even if it was / is not banned. It is horrible stuff to work with anyway, I speak from experience - I wouldn't recommend anyone to use it even if it were allowed.

    Sulphur dioxide ?? Hmm. I suspect this will also taint the wood if it is left in contact at high enough concentrations and for long enough, but have no experience of it with wood, so it may be OK, especially if rinsed out thoroughly with sterile water. I would just be wary of the beer developing hydrogen sulphide characteristics.

    Cheers
    dick

  5. #5
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    IN REGARDS TO PITCH, I BELIEVE PITCH IS USED FREQUENTLY IN MANY WOODEN BEER BARRELS, ALTHOUGH THERE NOW EXIST PLASTIC COATED WOODEN BARRELS AS WELL. THE RISK OF MICROBIAL CONTAMINATION IS TOO GREAT WITHOUT SOME LINING. I IMAGINE CASK BEERS WOULD BE ESPECIALLY VUNERABLE GIVEN THE TIME IT TAKES TO "BREATHE" UNTILL READY, BUT ANY COMMERCIAL BREWER WOULD BE SUSPECT TO PACKAGE A BEER IN A WOODEN BARREL WITH NO LINING. IT'S POSSIBLE THAT EXCEPTIONS WITH STRONG BEERS OR BOURBON FLAVORED BEERS EXIST, BUT I WOULD STILL BE CONCERNED ABOUT STABILITY. TRADITIONALLY GERMANS WILL TAP WOODEN BARRELS WITH BRASS TAPS INTO METAL FITTINGS INSIDE THE BARREL. THE TAPS ARE HELD TIGHT BY RED RUBBER WASHERS. WOODEN AND PLASTIC DISPOSABLE TYPES ARE USED AS WELL.
    IN REGARDS TO SANITIZING WITH FORMALDEHYDE, IT'S BEEN ILLEGAL FOR A LONG TIME, SO IT IS HARD TO GET-PERHAPS A LOCAL UNDERTAKER...

    PROST!

  6. #6
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    Intersting. I have never heard of plastic coated wooden barrrels. Do you have a contact name etc ??

    In the UK, unlined wooden barrels were used by virtually everyone, and still are regularly by Sam Smith's, occasionally Theakstons for the local market only, and I think, Holts in Manchester. I have seen beer in wood from micros, but again I think these are for "one offs" only.

    You are quite correct - unlined wood is a real nightmare to clean / sterilise, one reason why it has fallen out of fashion. The norm is to use aluminium casks now, which can be detergent cleaned and extensively steam sterilised, are comparatively low maintenance, and are of more consistent volume. The big problem recently has been the switch to plastic shives and keystones, which because neither the barrel, shive or keystone are wood, do not swell and fit the holes in the cask, which inevitable over a period of time become slightly misshapen. As a result, they have an irritating tendnacy to pop out.

    Cheers
    dick

  7. #7
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    Thumbs up Sanitizing wooden barrels

    HI:

    We serve either a Porter, Scottisch Ale, or some Specialty beer twice a week from a 3 gallon wooden barrel (late night ).
    Before filling it, I rinse the barrel good, than sanitize with Jack Daniels W. The Whisky is absorbed into the wood and later on released into the beer. Not only is the container sanitized, it also generates some very interesting flavors.

    Fred


  8. #8
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    There are at least two firms still making real wooden Beer Barrels in Germany. Both were at Brau last month. Brewroom Jay is correct that most German Barrels are plastic lined today. Lot less hassle with the keg and it can be cleaned with caustic and hot water.
    I open a can of worms here, but unlined Barrels can impart all sorts of funk into a well made Beer.

    Spundlaupen to all !

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the notes about the cask suppliers.

    Agree with the comment about all sorts of weirdness - most not good from unlined barrels - hence my earlier comments. I don't think production our size could cope with using whisky (or whiskey !!) as a sterilant, but agree about getting some different flavours. I know of people who have used fresh whisky barrels for maturation, some I believe using peated malt whisky. I haven't tried the results though.

    A few years ago we made a 17 % beer that we matured in sherry punchions for about nine months prior to hand bottling. One of them was fully drained and rinsed out, one was filled on top of the sherry sludge, and another had to have two end boards replaced with fresh ok. All three were totally different when freshly bottled, the one with new oak boards having a distinct, but not overpowering vanilla character, the one filled on the sherry sludge having a richer slightly more rounded character, and the beer from thoroughly rinsed out casks being gently rounded, but with no really distinctive additional characteristics. All were wonderful in their own way though.

    Cheers
    dick

  10. #10
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    Riverbank, California
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    Re: sterilizing wood barrels

    One of the ways that we find helps keep our wood barrels clean is an ozone saturated water rinse. It works fairly well. We try to fill the barrels immediately after they are emptied and rinsed. But keep in mind once any microbe takes a liking to your barrel it's pretty much impossible to get them out.

  11. #11
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    Feb 2003
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    Portland,Oregon
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    wood barrels pressure

    I work with 400 to 1000 60 gal barrels every vintage all unlined french oak. In order to treat the wine gently(without pumps) we use a Bulldog Pup, similar to the dip tube on a Sankey keg. The barrel is pressurized to12-20 psi with C02 or N2 to push the wine out 1 in hose. I can leave the barrel pressurized at 15 psi for hours without leaking provided the barrel is sound. Typically cleaning is done with warm water or hot if needed then SO2 sulfur dioxide to preserve while empty renewing sulfur every 6 weeks.

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